Lansing, MI (WLNS) – Ingham County officials visited a refugee resettlement agency Monday to show support for refugees. It was in collaboration with Welcoming Michigan, which works with communities and local governments to create safe spaces for refugees and immigrants.
Tamara Silva left Cuba in 1994 to come to the U.S., but it wasn’t an easy journey.
“When I left Cuba, I left in a boat – homemade boat – and it was 20 feet long and we were 24 people in that boat,” said Tamara Silva, refugee.
Silva spent months filling out paperwork and eventually arrived in Lansing in 1996. The same goes for Alphonsine Busabusa, who left Burundi, Africa in the midst of civil war.
“It’s not easy to come to U.S.,” Busabusa said. “It takes for so long, but you start have this, you start having hope, saying one day, I will go. The door is going to open for me.”
It’s a door that organizations in Lansing are trying to keep open. St. Vincent Catholic Charities talked to Ingham County officials Monday about their refugee services, including resettlement, employment and education.
“They need the schools, they need the jobs, they need friends, they need family, they need community.”
St. Vincent’s Judi Harris says there is a lot of work to be done, especially as they prepare for the resettlement of Syrians in Lansing.
“There are terrible places in the world, people are fleeing, and so we need to do our part, and do as much as possible to, to give them a place to live in safety,” Harris said.
Ingham County Commissioner Carol Koenig says refugees are also giving back.
“They actually are, are a really great part of our community, they start businesses, their kids go to school with your kids, and they’re wonderful people,” Koenig said.
St. Vincent helped Silva and Busabusa when they came to Lansing. Now, they’re returning the favor by helping other refugees.
“When I see my kind coming from the airport, and then you go back after 90 days, how much they can be able to do by themselves,” Busabusa said.
It’s a program St. Vincent’s had since the 1970’s.
St. Vincent is being asked to accept upwards of 700 refugees this year, which is 100 more refugees than past years.